Goodyear, Gatik say tire tech is key to bringing AVs to winter climates

Cars become an extension of the body when humans drive; we can feel the lack of grip in our car's tires when driving over icy or wet roads. Autonomous vehicles don't exactly have the same sensory abilities, which is one of the reasons why most AV testing and deployment happens in sunny climates.

Gatik, an autonomous trucking company with offices in the U.S. and Canada, thinks tire-sensing data might be the key to bringing self-driving tech to wintery roads. The company is working with Goodyear, the iconic tire company, to prove that intelligent tires can accurately estimate tire-road friction and provide real-time information back to Gatik's automated driving system.

"The tire is the only part of the vehicle that touches the ground, and this new level of data sophistication can communicate vital information to the vehicle, enhancing safety and performance," said Chris Helsel, Goodyear's senior vice president of global operations and chief technology officer, in a statement. "This is another step to evolve the tire to not only deliver its core, traditional job but also be a nexus of new data and information."

The companies shared at CES 2023 that they recently deployed Goodyear's road friction detection technology, called SightLine, in Canada. The deployment involved continuously measuring tire sensor-derived information -- like wear state, load, inflation pressure and temperature -- against other vehicle data and real-time road weather data. All of this information was then connected to Goodyear's cloud-based proprietary algorithms to come up with a friction estimate. Goodyear said over the course of the trial, these friction estimates successfully detected low-grip conditions, like snowy or icy conditions.

The idea down the line is for the friction estimates to be sent back to Gatik's autonomous fleet to assist with path planning and providing recommendations for safe driving speed, vehicle acceleration limits and vehicle following distance, according to Goodyear.

Of course, the potential for SightLine doesn't end with better detection of snowy roads or even with autonomous driving. Goodyear said it expects to deploy the tech on "select original equipment vehicles" in 2023. Tire technology can also provide information on the health of the tire and collect information about road conditions like potholes.

In 2021, Goodyear Ventures and Porsche Ventures strategically invested in Tactile Mobility, an Israeli startup that said its tech could measure tire grip estimation and tire health. It's not clear if Goodyear collaborated with Tactile Mobility to develop SightLine, and the company didn't respond in time to TechCrunch's queries.

Correction: Gatik is HQ'd in California and is not a Canadian company, although it has offices in Canada.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch
Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch